Top 30 Movies Filmed in Texas

Updated December 6, 2022 | Infoplease Staff
Ocotillos in the desert
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Although US films are synonymous with Hollywood, the Lone Star state of Texas has been the setting for some of the most memorable movies of all time. Both its wide-open vistas and its urban landscapes have told a variety of stories covering cowboys to stoners. Here we provide a list of the top 30 movies filmed in Texas and the stories behind them. 

1. Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood Filming Locations: San Marcos, Austin, Houston, & Alpine

Directed by: Richard Linklater

We begin with one of the most innovative movies ever made. This movie spans 12 years of a boy's life with filming taking place over a 12-year period to show his growth in real-time.

Texan director Richard Linklater (who appears more than once in this list), filmed mostly around Austin due to budgetary constraints. However, the story takes place in several locations in Texas. In fact, Linklater uses similar locations from his earlier films; including the school used in "Dazed and Confused" and a live music club used in "Slacker". Other locations include Big Bend State Park which was used in Wim Wenders' "Paris, Texas".

2. Bernie (2011)

Bernie Filming Locations: Lockhart, Bastrop, Smithville, & Austin

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater again directs this dark comedy (based on a true story) about a local mortician (Jack Black), beloved by the local community, who befriends an older, wealthy widow (Shirley MacLaine). As she begins to show a more controlling side, events take a turn.

The setting is the city of Carthage, known as the "Gas Capital of the United States". However, many scenes were shot in and around Austin. The court scenes were filmed in the Bastrop County Courthouse, which has also been used for the TV series "Walker". The theater scenes were shot in the Gaslight Baker Theater on S Main Street in Lockhart, which was also used in the comedy "Waiting for Guffman". 

3. Friday the 13th (2009) 

Friday the 13th (2009) Filming Locations: Marshall, Round Rock, Bastrop, La Grange, Wimberley, & Austin

Directed by: Marcus Nispel

The 12th (and most recent) movie in the long-running horror franchise sees a group of friends head to Crystal Lake for the weekend. But our old foe Jason Voorhees makes an appearance to make sure it's a weekend they won"t forget.

This was the first time in the franchise that filming took place solely within Texas (despite the other films taking place in New Jersey). Bastrop again features heavily in filming locations, particularly in the police encounter scene. In addition, Bubba's Gas Station in Austin (an actual business) appears as does the town of Round Rock; a town that appears in many films in this list.

4. There Will Be Blood (2007) 

There Will Be Blood Filming Locations: Marfa & Shafter

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson's epic centers around ruthless oil prospector, Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day-Lewis in an Oscar-winning role) whose aim is to become as rich as possible in the early days of the oil business.

Although much of the filming was done in California, the key oil-drilling scenes were filmed in the wide-open spaces of West Texas near the Mexican border. Towns such as Marfa and Shafter prove to be ideal locations for the oil-drilling scenes. Indeed, the desert area in and around Marfa is used to a similar effect in more than one movie on this list; not least the next on this list.

Old West gunman
Photo Source: iStock

5. No Country For Old Men (2007) 

No Country For Old Men Filming Locations: Marfa & Shafter

Directed by: Joel and Ethan Cohen

This Coen Brothers classic follows Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who stumbles across the bloody aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong and makes off with a bagful of cash left behind. He is pursued by a psychopath (an Oscar-winning Javier Bardem) who will stop at nothing to regain the loot.

As before, the desert around the West Texas town of Marfa once again perfectly captures the desolation and isolation of the area (and of Llewelyn's situation). Marfa experienced a boom time for filming during this period as, coincidentally, both this and "There Will Be Blood" were filmed in and around the town at the same time.

6. The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada (2005) 

The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada Filming Locations: Van Horn, Big Bend State Park, Shafter, Canyon, Lajitas, Odessa, Monahans, & Redford

Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones

A Texas ranch foreman attempts to keep his promise to his dead Mexican friend by taking his body back to his hometown to be buried.

If ever there was a movie in which the landscape becomes one of, if not the most important characters, it is this. Texan Tommy Lee Jones directed and starred in a movie that almost serves as a love letter to his home state. Jones (who also appeared in "No Country For Old Men") won Best Actor at the 2005 Cannes movie Festival for his performance and makes a strong case for being considered the quintessential Texan actor.

7. Friday Night Lights (2004) 

Friday Night Lights Filming Locations: Odessa, Abilene, Houston, Taylor, Elgin, & Austin

Directed by: Peter Berg

The true story of a high school football team in Odessa represents the hopes and dreams of its townsfolk. New coach Billy Bob Thornton attempts to inspire the players despite the town's social issues.

Here we get a glimpse of small-town Texas (if not America) brought to life on the screen. Many of the scenes (including the high school and locker room sequences) were filmed in Austin. The iconic Texan sports stadia (such as the Houston Astrodome) are shown in all their glory and the brutal nature of football is front and center.

The movie gave birth to a popular TV series between 2006 and 2011 which was also filmed mainly in Austin.

8. Miss Congeniality (2000) 

Miss Congeniality Filming Locations: Austin, San Antonio, & Round Rock

Directed by: Donald Petrie

When the Miss America pageant is under threat from a terrorist bomb, a female FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) goes undercover as a contestant despite being far from conventional and (in her own words) “just one of the boys”.

For the first time in the list, we see the "cradle of Texas liberty", The Alamo, in San Antonio. This was used as the location for the talent contest. Austin again dominates filming with the pageant taking place at the Omni Austin Hotel Southpark.

Indeed. Sandra Bullock has a number of connections to Austin; she co-owns Walton's Fancy and Staple, on West 6th Street and is rumored to own a home in Lake Austin.

9. Office Space (1999) 

Office Space Filming Locations: Austin & Dallas

Directed by: Mike Judge

Work sucks! One of the best comedies about the day-to-day grind at the office. Three workmates rebel against their hated boss in a movie that has become a cult classic. Written and directed by Mike Judge (the creator of Beavis and Butthead and King Of The Hill) and its stars include Jennifer Aniston.

Our trusted friend, the state capital Austin, provides the main locations for the film. The restaurant, Chotchkie's, was filmed in the (now closed) Alligator Grill which was used in both "Friday Night Lights" and "Dazed and Confused".

One interesting fact from the movie is that the term "ass-clown" (first used in the movie), was included in Webster's Dictionary in 2018.

Couple breaking up
Photo Source: iStock

10. Hope Floats (1998) 

Hope Floats Filming Locations: Smithville

Directed by: Forest Whitaker

Sandra Bullock appears again in a romantic comedy in which a divorcee starts her life afresh back in her hometown while a former beau (Harry Connick Jr) attempts to woo her.

We now move to rural Texas, to the town of Smithville on the outskirts of Austin in Bastrop County. Although a lesser-known location compared to others in this list, it has played host to a number of other movies including "Tree of Life", "Bernie", and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". The movie was directed by actor Forest Whitaker, who also directed "Waiting to Exhale" and won the Best Actor Oscar for "The Last King of Scotland".

11. Selena (1997) 

Selena Filming Locations: San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston, & Lake Jackson

Directed by: Gregory Nava

The true story of Selena Quintanilla Perez, the Tejano music superstar, is both remarkable and in many ways typifies the American Dream.

Although Selena played the Houston Astrodome, the actual arena scenes were filmed at the San Antonio Alamodome, with 35,000 extras given Coke products (rather than payment) for their time.

In order to get as close to Selena as a person, Jennifer Lopez lived with Selena's family for a while. In addition, Selena's mother in the movie is only 4 years older than Lopez and even auditioned for the title role.

The movie propelled Lopez to superstardom, making her the highest-paid Latina woman in Hollywood.

12. Lone Star (1996) 

Lone Star Filming Locations: Eagle Pass, Del Rio, Laredo, Luling, Coupland, & Uhland

Directed by: John Sayles

A 40-year-old skeleton is found in the desert in Rio County and a local sheriff (Chris Cooper) is called in to investigate. However, his attempts to uncover the truth lead to him discovering much more about the town, its inhabitants, and his own family.

This is a movie that captures life on the Texan-Mexican border and addresses many of the issues encountered by Chicano communities. The movie features some of the great Texan actors such as Matthew McConaughey and Kris Kristofferson.

It is considered one of the great films of the 1990s and its influence has continued to grow over the years.

13. 8 Seconds (1994) 

8 Seconds Filming Locations: Del Rio, Helotes, San Antonio, & Seguin

Directed by: John G Avildsen

A story of the All-American rodeo rider, Lane Frost was only 21 when he won a rodeo world championship. The movie captures his rise and his attempts to win the approval of his father and keep his marriage together.

The actors Luke Perry and Stephen Baldwin actually learned to ride bulls for the movie and the latter even donated his earnings to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund, which provides assistance to injured riders. The film's title refers to the minimum length of time a bull rider has to stay on his mount. 

14. A Perfect World (1993) 

A Perfect World Filming Locations: Martindale, Bastrop, Huntsville, Bracketville, Austin, Wimberley, Driftwood, Manor, & Taylor

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

An escaped convict Kevin Costner and his partner kidnap a young boy. As the authorities (led by Clint Eastwood) hunt them across Texas, the boy and his captor develop a bond.

Due to its nature as a road movie, the wide-open roads and plains of the Texas desert provide an ideal backdrop. Incidentally, this is one of Eastwood's favorite movies that he has directed. He was not due to appear until Costner persuaded him to. In fact, Costner's role was originally due to go to Denzel Washington.

Water tower
Photo Source: iStock

15. What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) 

What's Eating Gilbert Grape Filming Locations: Manor & Pflugerville

Directed by: Lasse Hallström

A young man (Johnny Depp) looks after both his brother with special needs (Leonardo Di Caprio – nominated for Best Supporting Actor) and his morbidly obese mother in a small town while wishing to break free and live a life of his own.

The movie is actually set in Iowa but the rural plains of the towns of Manor and Pflugerville provide the locations for the family home, Gilbert's place of work, and the famous water tower. However, the family home no longer stands due to storm damage.

Director Lasse Hallström had only made one American movie before this and, prior to this, was most famous for directing ABBA videos.

16. Dazed and Confused (1993) 

Dazed and Confused Filming Locations: Austin, Georgetown, Seguin, & Sunset Valley

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater again appears with an endearing ensemble comedy following the events of the last day of high school and junior high school in a small Texas town on May 28, 1976.

The movie was pivotal in launching the careers of Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck. Austin again provides the majority of the locations, and indeed it becomes a trip around 1970s suburban Austin.

The word "man" is used 203 times in the movie and the beer being drunk by the cast was real. In addition, such is the lasting influence of this movie that Matthew McConaughey named his production company JKL Productions after his character Wooderson's life credo: "Just Keep Livin'!"

17. Necessary Roughness (1991) 

Necessary Roughness Filming Locations: Denton, Fort Worth, Azle, & Dallas

Directed by: Stan Dragoti

The Texas State University Fightin' Armadillos have been placed under sanctions by the NCAA and can only field players who are not under scholarship. This means playing with an over-aged quarterback, a female kicker, and a number of sub-standard players.

The film's plot mirrored the story of Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. It was given the "death penalty" in 1987 under the "repeat violation" rule due to repeated recruitment violations such as financial inducements for players and their families. In 1987 and 1988 no football was played, and scholarships were revoked.

18.  Robocop 2 (1990) 

Robocop 2 Filming Locations: Houston

Directed by: Irvin Kershner

In the follow-up to the hit movie "Robocop", a rogue, evil version is let loose on the streets and it is down to the original unit to stop it.

Although set in Detroit, all but two minutes of the movie was filmed in Houston. Director Irvin Kershner (best known for directing "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - Episode V") felt that, as Houston shut down at night at that time, production would not cause the city as much disturbance. Its buildings also fit the dystopian feel of future Detroit; although, as it turns out, the first "Robocop" movie had been partially filmed in Dallas.

One famous story tells of a member of the crew who was actually mugged during production, but the Robocop character was too busy in his trailer being suited up to help!

19. Lonesome Dove (1989) 

Lonesome Dove Filming Locations: Del Rio, Bracketville, & Bastrop State Park

Directed by: Simon Wincer

Tommy Lee Jones again leads an all-star cast including Robert Duvall, Danny Glover, and Anjelica Huston in an epic series about a couple of former Texas rangers who lead a cattle drive from Texas to Montana.

Based on the award-winning Larry McMurtry novel, it is unique within this list as being the only TV miniseries. It was originally written as a movie starring John Wayne, James Stewart, and Henry Fonda but was shelved for over 10 years. McMurtry then bought the script back and turned it into a book.

"Lonesome Dove" was considered key in resurrecting both the western genre and the miniseries and was watched by circa 26 million people over the course of the series.

Pee-Wee Herman
Photo Source: AP Images/Danny Moloshok

20. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure Filming Locations: San Antonio

Directed by: Tim Burton

Eccentric man-child Pee-Wee Herman has his bike stolen and sets out across America in an attempt to retrieve it while getting himself into all kinds of surreal situations.

The movie was shot predominantly in California; however, Pee-Wee ends up at The Alamo memorial in San Antonio. Ironically, despite the Alamo tour shown in the movie being less solemn than the real thing, it was filmed at the Warner Bros lot in Burbank! In fact, some of the shots portrayed as being in Texas were shot in California.

One issue the movie does clear up, however, is that there is no basement in The Alamo!

If you are intrigued by director Tim Burton (and perhaps surprised that he was the leader of this production), why not try quizzing yourself with How Well Do You Know Tim Burton Movies?

21. Blood Simple (1984

Blood Simple Filming Locations: Pflugerville, Austin, Hutto, Houston, & Round Rock

Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen

The movie that launched the Coen Brothers' career is a classic movie noir in which an affair between a wife and her husband's employee leads to a sequence of connected (and unpleasant) events.

The movie (again mostly shot in and around Austin) displays the dark side of the Texan experience. Its title is taken from a Dashiell Hammett novel which refers to a fearful mindset that develops after being exposed to violent events.

One interesting result of this movie was the meeting and marriage of Joel Coen and Frances McDormand, which exists to this day.

22. Places In The Heart (1984) 

Places In The Heart Filming Locations: Waxahachie

Directed by: Robert Benton

A woman (Sally Field) living in depression-era Texas attempts to keep her farm after her husband dies, with the help of a blind boarder (John Malkovich) and an itinerant man (Danny Glover).

The movie was both set and shot in Waxahachie, where writer and director Benton was originally from. This was due both to its resemblance to the era as well as having the ability to return the location to its modern-day state after filming. Benton had earlier written the script for Bonnie and Clyde which was also filmed there.

Sally Field won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance. In fact, for three consecutive years in the 1980s, a movie filmed in Waxahachie won an Oscar. 

23. Tender Mercies (1983) 

Tender Mercies Filming Locations: Waxahachie, Palmer, & Arlington

Directed by: Bruce Beresford

A troubled former country singer (Robert Duvall) tries to rebuild his life and career after meeting a widow (Tess Harper) and her son.

Another from the run of Oscar-winning, Waxahachie-filmed movies. Duvall won Best Actor and Horton Foote won Best Screenplay. Although a non-Texan, Duvall spent a lot of time in Texas in order to perfect his accent. He also wrote and performed his own songs in the movie.

Coincidentally, Foote wrote and won an Oscar for the screenplay of "To Kill A Mockingbird" in which Duvall also appeared as Arthur "Boo" Radley.

24. Urban Cowboy (1980)

Urban Cowboy Filming Locations: Deer Park, Pasadena, Houston, Huntsville, & Wallis

Directed by: James Bridges

A country boy (John Travolta) moves to the city to visit his uncle and family. He starts frequenting a nightclub where he meets his wife (Debra Winger). But before long he is in a fight to keep her.

The movie was filmed mostly in the Houston area. The club featured in the film, called Gilley's, was an actual club co-owned by country star Mickey Gilley. In fact, the club was, at one time, listed as the biggest nightclub in the world.

Scary butcher's barn
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25.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Filming Locations: Bastrop, Round Rock, Leander, Watterson, San Marcos, Austin, & Kingsland

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Based on the true story of Ed Gein, five teenagers stop at a sinister house while traveling to visit their grandfather's grave. What awaits them is a family of cannibalistic psychopaths who set upon them.

A movie that practically reinvented the horror genre, the movie was made for $130,000 and ended up making $30 million. It was filmed around Austin and its locations, including the infamous family farmhouse, are still visited by movie fans to this day. However, the farmhouse (originally in Round Rock) was moved 60 miles away to Kingsland and is now part of the Antler's Inn complex.

This is actually one of the least bloody horror movies and was intentionally cut for a "PG" rating but the Rating Board insisted on an "X" rating. Find out more information on Texas Serial Killers, including the infamous Gein! Or, check out our list of 45 Best Horror Movie Quotes, including "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre".

26. The Last Picture Show (1971) 

The Last Picture Show Filming Locations: Archer City, Holliday, Olney, & Wichita Falls

Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich

A group of teenagers (including Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd) come of age in early 1950s Texas in a town slowly dying both culturally and economically.

Another movie based on a Larry McMurtry novel, "The Last Picture Show" was actually filmed in McMurtry's hometown of Archer City. With its depictions of nudity and teenage sexuality, the movie was considered "dirty" by the residents of the town at the time.

The drama also continued off-screen as director Bogdanovich began an affair with Shepherd while his wife, Polly Platt, was working on the set and even styled Shepherd's hair most mornings.

The actor Ben Johnson, who plays Sam The Lion in the movie, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor with the shortest ever performance to win that award, at 9 minutes and 54 seconds. Cloris Leachman also won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

27. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) 

Bonnie and Clyde Filming Locations: Red Oak, Rowlett, Waxahachie, Denton, Garland, Midlothian, Pilot Point, Dallas, Trinity River, Venus, Maypearl, Lemmon Lake, Ponder, Crandall, & Lavon

Directed by: Arthur Penn

The story of the infamous couple Bonnie Parker, a waitress, and Clyde Barrow, an ex-con (played by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway) who embarked on a robbing and shooting spree across Texas in the 1930s.  

As the couple works their way through Texas, the list of filming locations grows ever longer. Indeed, it's probably easier to name the places that were not used for filming!

With its violence and flagrant disregard for authority, the movie captured the mood of discontent in America at a time of great social upheaval. It is also widely considered to be the movie that provided the catalyst for the revolution in American filmmaking during the late 60s and early to mid-1970s.

28. Hud (1963) 

Hud Filming Locations: Goodnight, Claude, Hunt, Vernon, & the "plaintive nether regions of the Texas Panhandle"

Directed by: Martin Ritt

An arrogant, selfish young farmhand (played by Paul Newman) clashes with his honest, hardworking father as they deal with the effects of foot and mouth disease at their Texas ranch.

The movie won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, and the isolated, wide-open spaces of the Texas Panhandle provide a template for many of the films on this list.

Yet another Larry McMurtry-inspired classic, it becomes clear that judging by his appearances on this list, McMurtry has a strong claim to be considered the bard of Texas.   

29. The Alamo (1960) 

The Alamo Filming Locations: Bracketville

Directed by: John Wayne

The true story of how a small army consisting of 185 men battled to stop the new Republic of Texas from falling into the hands of the 7,000-strong Mexican army.

This was Wayne's directorial debut and he partly financed it himself. However, the shooting overran, and Wayne incurred significant personal debt which was not recouped for many years. The set reportedly took two years to construct and has been renamed Alamo Village. It has subsequently been used in over 100 Westerns.

In addition, the movie is still banned in Mexico.

Texas barn
Photo Source: iStock

30. Giant (1956) 

Giant Filming Locations: Marfa, Valentine. Jeff Davis County, & Presidio County

Directed by: George Stevens

An epic story of love and rivalry spread across two generations. A Texas rancher (Rock Hudson) meets and marries a Maryland girl (Elizabeth Taylor) who follows him back home. When a former farmhand on the ranch (James Dean) strikes oil and becomes rich, his presence impinges on their lives.

The final movie on this list is perhaps most famous for being James Dean's final movie before his untimely death at the age of 24 in a car crash shortly after finishing filming. Until the release of "The Exorcist" in 1973, "Giant" was the highest-grossing Warner Bros movie of all time.

Dean's character, Jett Rink, was based upon the life of Texas oilman Glenn H. McCarthy, an Irish immigrant who, among other places, owned the Shamrock Hotel in Houston, a symbol of Texan opulence.

What Is the Best Movie Filmed in Texas?

Everyone will have their own favorite movie from this list but what would be considered the best movie filmed in Texas? To answer this, we looked at the top-rated films on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes for each US state and the answer is...

Paris, Texas (1984) 

Paris, Texas Filming Locations: Marathon, Nordheim. Terlingua, Houston, El Paso, Stockton, Brewster County, Port Arthur, & Galveston

Directed by: Wim Wenders

A drifter (Harry Dean Stanton) who has been missing for four years appears from the desert and attempts to piece his life and family back together.

Winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes movie Festival, this movie (with music by Ry Cooder) is, perhaps more than any other on this list, the perfect marriage of sound and vision. The slide guitar music evokes the deserts of Texas and set the template for soundtracking desolate landscapes on film.

Texas on the Silver Screen

As we have seen, the Lone Star State has provided the backdrop to some of the most famous and iconic films ever made. We guarantee that at least one movie on this list will make you want to visit Texas and check out many of these famous locations.

If you are a movie fanatic why not test your knowledge with this quiz on movie quotes? Or take a virtual stroll through the top National Parks in Texas!

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